Since 1921, Puyallup High School has held its annual Alumni Assembly on the last day of classes before winter break.
This year the Hanawalt Pavilion inside the school’s gym was packed to the rafters Dec. 18 with current students, staff and class members going all the way back to the year 1935.
As guests swarmed into the gym, they were asked to sign up on the sheets that represented visitors from their class. Classes sat together under banners identifying the decade that they graduated, and two classes, 1965 and 1990, were honored as the 25th and 50th graduating class.
One of the traditions of the Alumni Assembly is each class, beginning with the current year, stands and enthusiastically shouts out their class yell. Although this takes some time, everyone enjoys hearing the yells, all the way from 2015 down to 1935. Some classes had only one representative, but still participated and could be heard loud and clear.
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This year, 99-year-old Ralph Johnson, from the class of 1935, and Rachel Baars, who is 97 and graduated with the class of 1937, attended the Alumni Assembly.
Assistant Principal Maija Thiel, in her third year at PHS, is just learning about all the history of the Alumni Assembly, she said.
“I think ultimately it is one of those amazing kind of traditions that incorporates everything from student body and staff, to parents, booster club, the alumni and the entire community,” Thiel said. “It is such a cool way to see everyone come together.”
Special Education Resource teacher Judy Dogeagle, a PHS graduate, has been a staff member since 1987. Dogeagle observed how many graduates make it a priority to attend the Alumni Assembly each year.
“Many don’t live in the community so there are those that plan it so they can travel from distances to attend,” she said.
Dogeagle said she has noticed over the years that after graduation many of the barriers that existed in high school disappear and graduates stay in close touch.
“I graduated in 1969 and every week we have a group that meets for lunch on Fridays,” she said.
The committee planning the Alumni Assembly meets in the fall and continue on a regular basis until the day of the event.
“It is really fun for the staff, and everyone tries to participate,” Dogeagle said.
A big part of the day’s events are the Winter Wishes that are granted to students and families.
Winter Wishes is headed up by PHS teacher and Leadership advisor Jamie Mooring. The students in her leadership class work with a team asking for donations to fulfill wishes.
“This is the seventh year for Winter Wishes,” Mooring said.
Leadership students Kelty Pierce and Kenton Robillard are the student leaders of Winter Wishes and they, along with their team, work hard to bring in the donations.
“We went to the community, visited local businesses and Puyallup families starting November 1 until the day before the assembly. The community is invested in PHS and all it takes is asking the question,” she said, adding that alumni are generous in donating to the Winter Wishes campaign.
Students and staff members can make a wish on behalf of a student or family.
“We work with the counselor and teachers to help identify needs,” Pierce said.
Families received dinner boxes and a six-month supply of hygiene products for every family member, Mooring said. Those wishes are granted in private, but on the day of the Alumni Assembly, wishes granted to students were distributed.
This year, 1,570 wishes were made by staff and students, and wishes were granted for laptops, headphones, clothes, donuts, a fishing pole, dental and eye exams, a musical instrument, driver’s education classes and sports jerseys, just to name a few.
“This teaches kids that there is a need in school and they learn the value of networking,” Mooring said. “We are the only school in the entire country that invite alumni to come home. We honor them.”